INDUSTRY
October 20, 2015

Interview Tips when Dealing with Your Own Health Issues

Interviewing for a nursing job can be a complicated process in and of itself because of all the qualifications and necessary credentials needed to enter the field. For aspiring nurses who are dealing with their own health issues or that of a loved one, however, finding the right job can be even more challenging.

For starters, it’s difficult to determine how much information you should disclose to your prospective employers about your personal situation. On the one hand, you don’t want to jeopardize your chances at a great position by coming across as a potentially high maintenance employee who might need to take a lot of time off. Then again, being up front will take away the stress of trying to hide your condition, and allow you to find a job that you can physically and mentally handle.

While there’s no right or wrong advice since every individual’s situation is unique, here are some points to ponder if you’re not sure if and when you should tell your potential employer about a health issue.

Will your health impact your ability to perform the job?

Nursing is a physically and mentally demanding profession, even for someone in perfect health. That’s why you shouldn’t knowingly apply for a job that will be too much for you to handle. Trying to hide your illness will most likely lead to future problems on the job. It won’t be fair to your employer, and it’s certainly not good for your own well being.

The verdict: If your diagnosis will prevent you from performing your nursing duties in a safe manner, or potentially put patients at risk, then you need to be up front. It could mean you won’t get the job, but that’s better than burning yourself out, or worse -- risking the nursing license you worked so hard for if your condition results in harming a patient in some way. You may have no choice but to tell your interviewer about your situation, especially if your condition is the reason for gaps in your work history (something he or she will likely ask about). By being honest during your job search, you’ll be better able to find a position that suits your abilities. And, you’ll know right away if the employer is someone who will provide the support you’ll need to get you through temporary bouts of your illness. Luckily, there are lots of different nursing jobs, so even if you aren’t in the best health, it’s possible to find work that is less taxing.

Is your condition under control?

On the other hand, if you have the type of chronic health condition that is manageable, and that you’ve been able to cope with for years, it’s probably fine to keep it to yourself, especially in the early stages of your job search. Millions of people take medication, go for therapy, or undergo treatment for a variety of health issues, both mental and physical, and you’d never know it. Plus, you have no legal obligation to disclose anything related to your health on a job interview, assuming that it won’t impair your ability to perform. Then again, some positions might require a satisfactory medical check-up as part of the hiring process, in which case you might want to be forthright.

The verdict: In this situation, it’s probably OK to take a “mum’s the word” approach. There’s no need to raise any red flags if you’re under a doctor’s care, and it hasn’t affected your lifestyle or ability to work.

What about if a family member has a chronic/serious physical or mental illness? Should you mention it on the interview?

When it comes to the health of a family member – whether it’s an aging parent or a special needs child -- you definitely are not obligated to share it on a job interview. That being said, if caring for your loved one will require some schedule flexibility or extra time off, keeping it secret can come back to haumednt you later on. Depending on the employer, and the nature of the job, you might find some willing to accommodate occasional schedule change requests, whereas others may not offer the same flexibility.

The verdict: It depends. Being up front and honest is important, but only to a point. This could be the type of situation where it’s better to wait until you’re deeper into the hiring process, and mention your family commitments when negotiating your offer. For instance, you can say you’re willing to work holiday shifts or doubles in exchange for coming in late to take a sick relative for chemo treatments.

If you do decide disclose health issues, follow these strategies:

  • When describing your medical history, focus on the positive. Tell your prospective employer about your strengths, knowledge, and abilities, and your game plan for staying healthy.
  • Keep it simple. There is a such thing as TMI (too much information) when talking about your health. In other words, don’t go into detail about your symptoms. Just stick to how it may or may not impact you on the job.
  • When discussing family health issues, let the employer know that you’re willing to go above and beyond, cover shifts, and help out in exchange for your colleague’s support at times when you may need it.
  • Whether you decide to disclose the health situation of yourself or a close family member is ultimately your decision. If keeping your employer in the loop will help you manage your health and stress level so that you can do a better job, then it’s probably a conversation worth starting.

    Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

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